Qatar is an anti-terror, anti-extremist pioneer: Macron
In the face of allegations from Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, French President Emmanuel Macron emphasised the importance of his country's "strong relationship" with Qatar for fighting terrorism and restoring peace in conflicts worldwide.
During Qatari Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani's visit to Paris on Friday, Macron told a press conference: "Qatar is a key partner helping us to achieve peace in a number of regions in the Middle East and Africa," adding that the tiny Gulf state is "a pioneer in taking measures against extremism and terror," and that he had discussed with Sheikh Tamim steps to tackle terrorism financing.
Sheikh Tamim said during the press conference in Paris, that ties between Doha and Paris were "very very strong, and we feel proud of this strong relationship".
The French leader explained that his country had a strategic relationship with Doha, and that "it is being strengthened by a shared vision and shared goals."
Sheikh Tamim began his official trip to France on Thursday, visiting the Mont de Marsan air base in the south, where 100 Qatari pilots and engineers are currently undergoing training.
During his visit to the base, Sheikh Tamim was shown the Rafale fighter jets, of which Doha is planning to buy 36.
"The strategic relationship is being put into practice through the Rafale aircraft deal," Macron said at the press conference.
The Emir said on Friday that there had been "no new developments on the Gulf crisis," stressing that his country "is making intensive efforts to restore peace in the region".
Macron echoed these sentiments, saying he was taking part in discussions with all sides of the Gulf crisis to "try to de-escalate" the spat.
The French leader voiced his support for Kuwaiti mediation of the crisis, stressing that "we must solve it through dialogue," pointing to the fact that, "France will continue to speak with all sides of the Gulf crisis."
Sheikh Tamim also said he had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday about buying an advanced air defence system, but no decision had yet been taken.
News that Qatar might purchase the S-400 missile system has alarmed its neighbour Saudi Arabia and its allies who have imposed the land, air and naval blockade on the gas-rich island-nation.
The quartet of Arab countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and developing close ties with regional rival Iran, a charge Doha strongly denies.
French newspaper Le Monde reported last month that Saudi Arabia had even written to France warning that it might take military action if Qatar went ahead with the purchase.
"I don't want to go into details," Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said at the press conference in Paris.
"There is no agreement. It's true that we discussed it, we talked about it."
The S-400 is the latest generation surface-to-air defence system developed by Russia and is considered by NATO countries to pose a threat to their aircraft.